Cover Story

Split decisions

"Split decisions" Continued...

Issue: "Back to School," Sept. 7, 2013

Elsewhere in the world, the homeschooling movement is growing and governments are grappling with it. Godfrey Kyazze, a curriculum coordinator with his wife Olga at New Hope Uganda, said homeschooling is becoming more popular in his country: “The law in the land requires every school-going child to be in ‘school’ and that’s it. However there is a steadily growing movement of home educators and we are trying to mobilize ourselves into a legal entity.”

Kyazze notes Africans are debating how well parents are equipped for homeschooling: “If we are looking at education as teaching children calculus, physics, and things of the like, yes, it will take some training of those families to do so or some extra help. But if we look at education as giving life to children or passing on what you know to the next generation, then every family is doing it for good and for worse already.” 

—Kaitlyn Speer is a World Journalism Institute graduate

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arrows_3.jpg Classical and practical?

by Michael Reneau

In 2008, during his last year at Gutenberg College, a small Oregon institution that emphasizes classical Christian education, James Simas spent hours swinging pendulums in laboratories. His task: Study Galileo’s theories on pendulums and build your own experiments to prove or disprove them. 

A few months and a bachelor’s degree later, though, Simas found himself swinging hammers while repairing rusted roofs of Oregon farm buildings, and then chopping wood. With no promising career prospects in sight, he had “a crisis of self-definition for a while. I had to work through, ‘Who am I?’”

In 2009, though, a temporary customer service job at Symantec, a computer software company with a nearby call center, turned into a full-time position in Symantac customer service and technical support. Simas now works with software engineers and other technical support specialists to help solve tech problems for Symantec’s commercial customers. His gray cubicle is not a book-lined study, but he plans to stay: “My ability to pick things up quickly is what allowed me to excel here.”

Well-known universities like Baylor and Biola also offer honors programs that have students reading classic texts of the Western canon and spending hours discussing them and their ideas with groups of classmates—but students like Anthony Kemp also gain some specialized skills and experiences. Kemp read great books at Biola’s Torrey Honors Institute but also studied screenwriting and landed an internship at a film production company. After graduation in 2010 he was able to gain an internship and then a job at Pixar, where he has worked on the films Cars 2 and the recently released Monsters University

Danielle Hitchen, another Biola and Torrey graduate, moved to Washington, D.C., after graduating in 2010. She landed a public relations job thanks to a personal connection. But 14-hour days spent with phone in hand pitching stories to journalists wore her down: She hardly ate a home-cooked meal, couldn’t attend church regularly, and “felt like I had to dumb down my ability to think about things.” She quit her job but spent months applying to more than 20 jobs before the National Review Institute—founded by William Buckley—hired her last year.

Aspiring filmmaker Sydney Alford applied to 60 Hollywood jobs when she finished at Biola in 2008, and learned that “nobody cares where you went to school.” A friend got her a job at a small company where she worked as a producer’s assistant for two-and-a-half years to gain experience in film logistics, which included everything from keeping filming crews on schedule to managing parking. Two years ago Alford became one of 12 trainees at the Directors Guild of America, the top union for directors and their staffs in Hollywood. She has worked on TV shows like NBC’s The Office and ABC’s The Neighbors, among others, and will be a member of the Guild in a few more months—something that usually takes several years.

Administrators say many students—about one-fourth of Gutenberg’s, half of Great Texts Program majors at Baylor, and 70 percent of students at St. John’s College, a non-Christian classical education school in Annapolis, Md.—pursue graduate degrees. Maggie Heim graduated from St. John’s in 2008 and then worked for a year at Fannie Mae, the federally backed mortgage security company that regularly brings in classically educated students to work in data analysis. Heim then went to Northwestern’s law school and just began work as a public defender in Mount Vernon, Ill.

Classical education advocates say students walk away from those programs as better learners, which prepares them for a rapidly changing economy. St. John’s Alumni Relations Director Leo Pickens says 10 percent of graduates go on to practice law and 20 percent go into business. About 19 percent work in education, 15 percent become journalists, media professionals, or artists, and 9 percent work in medicine. 

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